(Un)Hired Help: What employees really want

In today’s war for talent, tech startups and corporate giants are redefining the recruitment game with a host of unique benefits, perks and amenities – but that doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t compete.


By Dave DeWitte

Employers, meet the University of Iowa Class of 2019’s Liam Crawford.

Mr. Crawford, 21, is planning to graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy.

Forget everything you’ve heard about millennials; he is no slacker. The Stuart, Iowa, native is president of the UI Chapter of the Machine Learning Society and vice president of the Presidential Scholars Association. He’s completed two internships, one developing software for a medtech company and the other in the red-hot field of machine learning research for one of the world’s largest tech companies.

Combining studies in philosophy and computer science made his time at the UI more enjoyable and balanced, Mr. Crawford says, giving him time away from computer screens and the ability to look at the larger picture of human reasoning.

“The early computer scientists, many of them would consider themselves philosophers and mathematicians,” he said. “So much of the early logic in computer science was built out of people who were very well read in philosophy.”

You won’t get to hire Mr. Crawford, however. He’s already accepted a job offer from Google in Mountain View, California, working in machine learning research as he did during his internship there.

“I can get top engineering mentoring that I can’t get in Iowa,” he said, adding that just about everyone he worked with at Google seemed exceptional in their own right.

He has mixed feelings about leaving Iowa, a place with a big hold on his heart. He says it’s not about the money, but about jumpstarting his career — not to mention the lifestyle and the workplace culture. He can’t even list all the benefits Google provides, which include points employees can cash in for free massages during the work day, loaner bicycles for cruising the company’s sprawling campus, and a subsidized transit program for getting to and from work.

“Especially those tech companies, you get these feelings of being wanted by an employer almost to the point of it being ludicrous,” Mr. Crawford said, recalling conversations with past UI grads who’ve gone to Google. “You just feel like you’re in a fairy tale land sometimes when you’re in those places.”

While Mr. Crawford’s educational and career experience are far from the norm, they’re a reminder that Iowa employers, coping with the worst labor shortage since the Korean War, are in a national, and even global, competition for talent.

Read the full, members-only feature in the April 29 print or digital editions of the CBJ. Not a member? Join today.